Friday, May 1, 2015

Tampa Bay Rays April 2015 Attendance Review

Welcome to our first monthly review of the Tampa Rays 2015 attendance. This post will look at attendance in games played from April 6, 2015 to April 26, 2015.
  • Total April 2014 Tampa Bay Rays home attendance: 210,534
  • Average attendance per game: 17,545
  • Highest attendance: 31,042 on April 4th (Opening Day)
  • Lowest attendance: 11,897 on Friday, April 24th
  • Average April game time: 2 hours, 58 minutes
  • Highest attended series: 58,367 vs Yankees, April 17-19
  • Lowest attended series: 40,874 vs Red Sox, April 21-23
  • Competing events: Tampa Bay Lightning home games on April 18 and 25, Tampa Bay Rowdies home game April 25, Tampa Bay Storm home game on April 17.
  • Total Tampa Bay Minor League April attendance: 69,790
  • Tampa Bay Minor League attendance per game: 1,745 (40 games)

Since 2007, average April attendance has been 2.1% above the annual average (20,581 vs 20,145). This bump is expected due to Opening Day and playing rival AL East opponents.

Comparing April 2015 with previous years

The following chart compares April 2015 average attendance to other recent years.

The average April 2015 attendance was 11.4% worse (2,277 fans per game) than the April 2014 per game average. April 2015 was the worst average since 2011.

Each year Rays average attendance was below average, the Tampa Bay Lightning were in the NHL playoffs and played games at the same time as the Rays.
  • 2007: 3 Lightning playoff games
  • 2011: 4 Lighting playoff games
  • 2014: 1 Lightning playoff game
  • 2015: 2 Lightning playoff games

While this is not a perfect match, the impact of the Lightning on Rays early season attendance is indisputable. Since 2007, every time the Lightning made the playoffs, Rays average April attendance was below 20,000. When the Lightning are not in the playoffs, Rays average April attendance was above 20,000.

Weekdays vs Weekends

Let's now look at the Rays April attendance on weekdays (Mon-Thurs) and weekends (Fri-Sun). As I have pointed out before, the Rays usually have one of the biggest differences in Major League Baseball in regards to weekday versus weekend attendance.

This chart shows the Rays average weekday attendance in April since 2007. I have removed Opening Day attendance from this chart.

Outside of an rival fan driven spike in 2013, Rays weekday attendance in April has been relatively consistent since 2010. Weekday attendance in April 2015 was not out of the norm.

The following chart shows Rays average weekend attendance in April since 2007.

Here is where the difference is. Rays weekend attendance in April is all over the place. Again in 2007, 2011, and 2014 - years the Lightning were in the playoffs - Rays average weekend attendance was below 20,000. However, 2014 weekend attendance bucked this trend by nearly averaging 25,000 in a Lightning playoff year.

In 2014, the Rays played two weekend games coinciding with Lightning games (1 regular season, 1 playoff). Both Rays games drew over 26,000 fans. At the time, I thought the factors that aided Rays attendance were a bobblehead night and the allure of the New York Yankees.

In 2015, the Rays again played two weekend games coinciding with Lightning games (both playoff games). This year, neither a bobblehead promotion nor the allure of the Yankees bumped attendance. While this doesn't discount the 2014 theory, we definitely have to explore further.

Through Game 12

Let's now look at Rays average attendance through Game 12 of the 81 game home schedule.

The following graph depicts the chart.

This is an interesting chart. Of course, the spike in 2009 was an afterglow of the 2008 World Series run. Since then, attendance through Game 12 has been consistent, except in 2011 and 2015.

However, what has everyone worried in 2015 is that in 2011, the Rays had not yet played the New York Yankees. In 2012 and 2014, the Rays played the Yankees early in the season on the weekend. In 2013, their earliest season series was during the week.

In 2015, the Rays did play the Yankees on a weekend. Compared to previous April weekend series versus the Yankees, this year's series did not draw well.


As I mentioned in a previous post, if attendance is reliant on opponent fanbases, there is another. Especially if the New York Mets continue their hot play. If the Mets are good, they should outdraw last year's NL Central opponents during Mets visit to Tropicana Field in August. A series versus the Atlanta Braves following the Mets also has potential to bring some rival fans to St. Petersburg.

Admittedly, it is weird basing Rays attendance predictions and analysis on the buying habits of opponent team fanbases. I don't think any other team is as reliant on visiting fanbases as the Rays. The Cardinals, for example, don't celebrate visiting Cubs fans and the Yankees surely don't celebrate visiting Red Sox fans. But in Tampa Bay this phenomenon is not only excepted, it is what media and fans base their predictions on.

I'm sure the Rays front office would like to change that one day.